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YOW presses for public funding for LRT to airport

Ottawa International Airport Authority president and CEO Mark Laroche.

City planners have already included it as part of environmental assessments for Phase 2 of Ottawa’s light rail plan. City Hall’s own Finance and Economic Development Committee Report 6 from July touts the “economies of scale” that can be realized by getting it done sooner rather than later.

The business case for Phase 2 and the airport link is well documented in the City’s Environmental Assessment report for all to view. It will be sent to Ontario’s Minister of the Environment in coming weeks.

There is absolutely no better time to build the airport link than as part of Phase 2 of LRT, says Mark Laroche, President and CEO of the Ottawa Airport Authority.

“This is a vital piece of the puzzle Ottawa needs as the capital of a G7 nation,” he said. “We stand on the cusp of a momentous time in this city, with huge legacy projects like LeBreton Flats and Zibi. Because the City hasn’t committed to funding a portion of the airport link, it remains uncertain if it will be built to bring the world to this dynamic new Ottawa.” 

Ready to work on a creative solution

Phase 2 of LRT, with its $3-billion price tag, was approved by city council in July. Formal commitments by the provincial and federal governments to each fund a third of the price tag are expected later this year.

An airport link is part of this city staff recommended plan. And yet, sourcing the estimated $155 million needed for the airport link remains in doubt versus other pieces of the funding request. The City of Ottawa won’t commit to covering a portion of the cost to the same proportion as the rest of Phase 2.

“The Airport Authority has committed its support to the airport terminal portion of the project, and will finalize the figure when actual costs are determined – no other organization being serviced by the LRT Phase 2 has been asked to do as much,” Laroche said.

The Airport Authority already does its part for the community with nearly $5 million in payments in lieu of taxes, supporting almost 5,000 jobs onsite with plans to grow and hire more, and paying about $8 million a year to the federal government in rent to Transport Canada.

It’s about the local economy, not the airport

“We are a private not-for-profit corporation, a tax-paying economic generator that serves the whole city,” Laroche said. “An LRT connection to our terminal doesn’t provide any financial benefit to the Airport Authority, but it would for the National Capital region by making it a more attractive destination for congress, tourism and business. Providing more transportation options to and from the airport is especially important given the limited road access and the fact that plans to widen the Airport Parkway are years away.”

Now is the time to get it done, to take advantage of the economies of scale and cost savings that come with being part of a larger project that already has shovels in the ground. 

“We are working with the City to complete the applications for funding to the provincial and federal governments,” Laroche said. “We hope the importance of an airport link for the future of our City is confirmed with the required financial support of all levels of government.”

Organizations: LRT Phase 2, Ottawa Airport Authority, Transport Canada National Capital

Geographic location: Ottawa, Ontario

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